Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 WSHSHP Circle of Champions


Honoring those far-seeking souls who correctly chose the
 2011 Wisconsin Prep Hockey Champion

Brian Kobylinski 
Mark Jobson
Wayne Lee
Dan Caplan
Lucas Rudy
Oliver Albrecht


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Will Depress You.


If you are anything like The Commissioner, there's no end to the pain caused by looking across the border of our fine state and seeing prep hockey getting the respect it deserves. Take a look at this clip. Please note the SRO crowd, the excellent TV coverage, the unbridled exuberance.

Now recall our Wisco boys standing around on the ice of a nearly empty Coliseum thirty years past its expiration date, waiting for the scoreboard to start working again.

Now please note my heartbreaking sigh.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rocky Mountain High Indeed

The Commissioner has a new policy. He only vacations in ports of call that support high school hockey. So when he spied the front page of the Gunnison (CO) Country Times last night while enjoying an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer with fellow pool participants Shauna Rudy, Eric Mott and Analisa Rudy, he knew he was spending his hard-earned dollars wisely.


This is no illusion. Midget hockey is front page news here in Gunnison County. And while the local squad's uniforms leave much to be desired, every kid should at one point in his or her life proudly call him or herself a Gunnison Blade. The Blades now move onto Denver where they will need to win two more games to win their first ever Colorado Amateur Hockey League Cup. (I am already checking flights to see if I can be on hand for this. Stand by for a mini-bracket.)

And lest you think the coverage of Gunnison's win over Crested Butte was a fluke, Eric Mott reports that an earlier edition of the paper carried front page news of Crested Butte's fundraising efforts to enclose its open air ice rink. You heard me right, friends. The Crested Butte kids play hockey the way God intended: outdoors. And given that my nipples can cut glass after just a twenty foot walk from the car to the bar in downtown Crested Butte, you can bet these kids are as tough as a thousand Bud Grants.

God bless Wisconsin high school hockey. And God bless the Rocky Mountain Youth Hockey League.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

With No Music to Cue End of Speech, Jubilant Kobylinski Reflects Ad Nauseum on First Ever WSHSHP Title

Noted Mequon tagger Alex "Schwag Man" Vanderhevehoven works on his tribute to 2011 WSHSHP champion Koby Kobylinski.
Today's Viewer Mail comes from our very own champion Brian "Koby" Kobylinski. Hope you have a couple minutes, because this kid is pretty fired up about high school hockey.

Commissioner, 
First of all, let me convey how humbled I am to have stepped into the elite class of Wisconsin High School Hockey pool winners. This pool continues to provide respite from the stresses of work and raising three ladies. I did approach this year’s contest with a different strategy and it paid off.  
Following are some random thoughts as I look back on the tournament and hockey season in general: 
Wausau West 
This seems like such an obvious pick looking back on it now, but isn’t this always the case? One must not forget top seeded Appleton’s loss in the first round a couple years back. Three main factors drove this WW team to hoist the trophy: 
  1. Their coach holds the record for the most wins in Wisconsin High School Hockey history, yet none of his squads won the big one before now. 
  2. The heartbreaking loss to USM in last year’s final left a sour taste for 12 months.
  3.  The 16 returning seniors provided experience not seen outside of Rik Moe’s “Bald Eagle” geezer hockey group.
Middleton 
How could anyone bet against this team? The combination of perfect uniform and sentimental nature (the General’s chevrons are stapled to the ceiling of our basement hockey room while the site of #11 evoked Jaime’s fluid play) made them a cinch for the finals.
    Fox Cities Stars 
    Lost in the fray that is the opening round(s) was the fact that the Moes’ second cousin Max Mantey sustained a separated shoulder. He is a sophomore I believe, and one of their leading scorers. The big issue for Max is that he is a scratch golfer and will need to recover for that season. We need to do a profile on this mop headed marksman next year. 

     Self-imposed Exile
     
    I did go to Door County for two days to escape my house of estrogen and caught both the girls’ and boys’ finals on TV. Nothing better than not showering, reading magazines, and drinking beer by yourself to create the ambiance necessary to win this pool. Oh, Ruslan Fedotenko ate Wilson’s ice cream and JJ’s chips and salsa out of the Cup a few summers ago after the Penguins won the second best trophy in sports. Tell me that wasn’t good for the juju. 
    Girls’ Final 
    Not only were the four overtimes great, but the runner up Central Wisconsin Storm is a group that G has played against during her time in youth hockey. They’ve always been a strong team and, if memory serves me, we hung in there with them losing by one to two goals each time. Probably the best player name of the year was uttered during the championship broadcast as well, Syd Danger. God, that is good. 
    Silent Treatment  
    As you know, I am a relative newbie to hockey and one of the things I always point out to folks when describing the beauty of the sport is the post-game interviews.  All one has to do to see the cultural difference between this great sport and other “me me” games is to pay attention to what the players say.  Even though there is a ton of trash thrown around the rink, this is rarely done off the ice (eliminate Sean Avery from your memory bank). I felt that the amount of lip that I was contributing in past pools was not earned.  Only now that I have hoisted the trophy can I return to the fray of smart speak. 
    Ties to Your Clique 
    The hockey world sure is small. Sophie’s coach played for USM in the early 80s. He remembered Erik as “Ozzy” from the letters inked on to Moe’s gloves.  Ah, now that is classy!  
    Long live Wisconsin hockey,
    Koby

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    A Quick Side Trip Down Memory Lane



    For a third-tier sport, the NHL does some pretty great TV spots and this re-release of their famous Easter Epic promo is no exception. The Commissioner's memory has faded as quickly as his hairline but he does recall watching this legendary game live from the steamy confines of the State Street Brat Haus on the night of his birthday in 1987. Several other WSHSHP hockey participants were in attendance too, if I recall. Erik Moe and Ivo Knezevic, for sure. Perhaps even Stu Keith and Bigs Anderson? And I know Jeff Caplan was a frequent visitor to that establishment during his bachelor days. I also remember that the bar closed before the game was over and we never got to see LaFontaine's winning goal in the fourth overtime. Oh, and par for the course, several sorority girls got into a huge cat fight over who was going to escort me to my post-bar gyro. (Of course, that happened pretty much every time I broke out my parachute pants in the late 80's; it's the hockey game that made this night special.)

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Viewer Mail: TJ Hansen Breaks His Silence in a Big Way


    Granted, this memo from TJ Hansen would have been a lot funnier had I posted on the day it arrived, but as Erik Moe has been so eager to point out, I do have an extremely busy vacation schedule this winter. Still, the sheer sass displayed by the previously silent Hansen needs to be acknowledged. I expect great things from this kid next year.
    Hey Commish -
    First of all - you've been my meth rock for the last few weeks. I'm addicted to thebigice and my life is starting to crumble because of my potential fame. This year's WSHSHP has been a wild roller coaster ride and when you're partying with Charlie Sheen after a Middleton victory things can get pretty f***ed up. (No, I'm not one of his new goddesses).  

    TJ is so damn tired of pretending his life isn't perfect.
    As you'll see with pic 2 things did get a little crazy:
    No comment.
    But I want everyone to know I have declared myself the winner regardless of what happens tonight on the big ice. You see my wife, I mean my ex-wife, got a little sassy about the championship game tonight so I told her to go to hell and I'll find somebody, something, to stand by my side. Her name is Denver and I met her in the Coliseum parking lot. She claims her balls were cut off a long time ago which makes her a metrosexual, and me heterometerosexual.
    I am the Winner and I have had my intervention. A Middleton win and a WSHSHP championship belt (I want one like A-Rodgers has) will just be icing on the cake. 
     TJ
    We wish TJ and Denver the very best.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Wausau West Steamrolls Middleton, 5-0, Kobylinski Takes Home First WSHSHP Title

    So when does an ardent interest in an esoteric, sadly under-appreciated sport cross over the line to obsession? Some would argue the line is crossed when a man spends three weeks traveling solo around an ice-strewn wasteland blogging to an audience of four. Others, mainly married people with kids, might argue such an act is hardly an obsession, but rather a vacation. Point well taken.

    So instead I'll offer up this scenario as all the evidence you need to establish once and for all that the Commissioner is a man in dire need of a new hobby. Imagine, if you will, a father rising at 3:30 AM to take his 9-year-old son on a much-anticipated day ski trip up to the Sierras. A tough wake up call, for sure, but what's a few hours of lost sleep compared to the precious father-son bonding that can arise from these times together? Now imagine this same father high atop a chair lift, pretending to listen to his son's heartfelt questions about God and heaven and the mysteries of the female form while secretly tuning into a streamcast of the Middleton-Wausau West state championship game on his smartphone. It brings tears of shame to the eye just thinking about it. (But then again, this is the same reporter who teared up watching Cheaper by the Dozen, Part 2 on the bus ride back down the mountain, so take this thinly veiled emotion with a grain of salt.)

    Thankfully for son and father alike, the cell reception at 9500 feet is as spotty as Chip Krauss' driving record, and the Commissioner was only able to catch glimpses of the action. Sounds like he didn't miss much.

    The only known photograph of the 2011 WSHSHP Champion.
    Thank God it's such a handsome one.
    I'm not sure Brian Kobylinski would agree. He emerges from the fray with his first ever WSHSHP title, racking up a staggering and well-rounded 333 points to convincingly win this year's pool. It was a workmanlike performance from the well-tailored executive from Mequon. The man did his homework, and it showed in the early round games, as a right call here and there spelled the difference between his history-making win and an impressive Mark Jobson repeat. Koby has always been one of the classier members of the pool, not prone to the Calvin Tran-like posturing of Erik Moe and the surprisingly sassy TJ Hansen. Not great for ratings, sure, but I think we can all agree that in 2011, the good guys won. Could there be a dynasty in the making or, at the very least, an intense rivalry between Jobson and Kobylinski? Time, and a new tournament field in 2012, will tell.

    12 points shy of his second WSHSHP title, Mark Jobson turns to another muse for comfort.
    Staying in the feel-good category, take a look at Wayne Lee's first ever medal performance. A borderline hysterical breakdown at the start of the tourney strained the relationship between the tightly wound Lee and this office, but our respect for his quiet perseverance and commitment to the WSHSHP has never wavered. We are thrilled to see all that hard work finally pay off for Lee and his family, and we hope this year's good showing proves a springboard to greater success in the future.

    They usually don't pass out crowns for a 3rd place finish, but Wayne
    Lee has this one made up special.
    Fitness guru Dan Caplan finally broke free from the shadow cast by his often obnoxious brother, Jeff, to chalk up his first Top 5 Performance, while the surprisingly consistent Lucas Rudy is proving all the doubters wrong, emerging as Rudy Manor's most successful WSHSHP performer, much to the chagrin of his highly competitive brother, Griffin, who also notched up a Top 10 performance this year. Are the Rudys the WSHSHP's version of NASCAR's Earnhardt family dynasty? This office likes to think so.
    Oliver Albrecht kisses a baby, secretly
    wishing it was the WSHSHP trophy.

    Speaking of quiet, Oliver Albrecht has turned in another impressive Top 10 finish this year. We heard nary a peep from the thin-skinned soccer lover this year. Passive aggressive much? In many ways Albrecht has never recovered from the 2009 controversy but the man can still consistently fill out a bracket. It's the German way. Rookie Mike Moore appears to have Rookie of the Year honors wrapped up with his 9th place finish and everyone's favorite landscape ecologist, Blake Feist, a strong supporter of this office after repeated and unfounded accusations of financial malfeasance, rounds out this year's Top 10 with 236 points.

    We'll dig deeper into the leaderboard a little later, plus award this year's Commissioner Awards in upcoming posts. So while the action may have ceased at the Alliant Center, stay tuned for lots more hot prep hockey action here at The Big Ice.

    God bless you all. And God bless Wisconsin high school hockey.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Wausau West Stuns ECM in Overtime! Down Goes Moe! Down Goes Moe!

    Now that, my friends, was a hockey game. I am as breathless as a teenaged Ivo Knezevic the night Ronnie James Dio flashed him the secret devil sign. What a game! What an effort! And after that wacky bounce off the trampolines that pass for hockey boards at the Alliant Center, you can bet there are a few ECM faithful ready to join me in my crusade to find a better venue for this most hallowed of athletic competitions.

    But I digress.

    Sadly, I will be on a ski hill during tomorrow's epic championship tilt (yes, another WSHSHP-financed business venture) so I will not be able to officially announce a winner until tomorrow evening.

    But here's the poop in my stead:

    If Wausau West prevails, Brian Kobylinski is your 2011 WSHSHP Champion. That's right: Koby. Maybe is was a Zen/Art of War thing, but the man kept an incredibly low profile this tournament. But we are now seeing that perhaps there is some method behind that mask of mundanity. Well-played, Mr. Kobylinski.
    Koby, proud graduate of the Bud Grant School of Inner 
    Charisma, hams it up following Wausau West's stunner.
    And speaking of unlikely heroes, if Middleton wins, TJ Hansen, a man whose lack of presence on internet makes J.D. Salinger look like Blake Feist after three Slippery Nipples by comparison, will be this year's pool champion. And the fact that he's backing his alma mater is incredibly nerdy, er, heart-warming.

    There are loads of other feel-good stories in the making, and I will get to those as soon as the last WSHSHP dollar has been spent on an apres ski martini tomorrow evening. Until then, God bless you. And God bless Wisconsin high school hockey!

    Moe Still Rides Alone, Chased by Frothing Jobson and Quiet Stranger Named Karofsky

    WSHSHP leader Erik Moe sleeps off the effects of another night spent counting his 
    chickens before they hatch.
    If the scattered tins of Kodiak chew and copies of Big 'Uns Magazine are any indication, Erik Moe is beginning to establish a hobo camp on the first place stand in the WSHSHP leader board. His Notre Dame Tritons eeked out yet another overtime victory yesterday, keeping alive this addled has-been's dream of a first ever WSHSHP title. He has accumulated a staggering 234 points, with two games still to be played and a hot Triton stallion upon which to ride.

    "Shut up, kid, Daddy's trying to hear
    the score of the Middleton game."
    But don't count out the always crafty Mark Jobson (left), who is right behind Moe and waving his Wausau West banner at anyone who dares question while he is watching the live video feed of the game on Fox Sports Wisconsin instead of his daughter playing with his homemade crossbow.

    HINT: Listen to WiPH's MJ Hammett for audio while watching the feed on Fox Sports. Giants fans familiar with the pompous babblings of Joe Buck already have experience with this technique.

    Andy Karofsky glares at paparazzi who 
    finally locate him outside a Denver
    Hooters.
    And what's this? Andy Karofsky has come out of nowhere to snatch third place all to himself. The reclusive Karofsky prefers life in the shadows, but all that will come to an end should his Eau Claire Memorial Old Abes continue their steady demolition of any team that dares cross their path. Welcome to the spotlight, Mr. Karofsky. Bask in its light with the same gusto you once exhibited as a scrappy winger for the heavily-mulletted Middleton Cards of the mid 80's.

    And speaking of Cards, the even more elusive (not to mention mulletted) TJ Hansen is looking like a true gamer. If Middleton prevails today against ND, look for TJ to stand alone atop the WSHSHP heap, shirt ripped asunder, shouting nonsense about fire coming from his fists and the blood of tigers in his veins. Winning!

    Now let's play some hockey!

    Viewer Mail: "Honey Badger Don't Care"

    Flash in the pan prognosticator Dana Gross, perhaps looking to change his luck in the waning days of the 2011 pool, send this office a timely gathering. We accept.

    Quarterfinal Thursday Recaps

    NOTRE DAME ACADEMY 3, MILWAUKEE MARQUETTE 3 (2 OT)
    Wow, turns out the first game of Quarterfinal Thursday was the only one worth watching. The Hilltoppers silenced a lot of doubters, including this reporter, by hanging tough with the more skilled and experienced Tritons. The well-coached Hilltoppers took advantage of the breaks they were given and had Notre Dame (and a chain-smoking Erik Moe) on the ropes for much of the game. But ND dug deep and squeaked out the win in the second overtime on a Steven Phillips' re-direct of a Tim Davison slapshot.

    My heart goes out to the Hilltoppers, despite the silly helmet decals. Overtime losses are like a swift kick in the nuts. And if these photos are any indication, the Hilltoppers know what it feels like to be kicked in the nuts.

    Kick in the nuts numero uno:
    Here's hoping the concussion from Conor Doran's elbow 
    momentarily distracted this fellow from the knee to his groin.
    Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
    Kick in the 'taint numero dos:

    MU's Bryan Cahol take a skate blade to his, ah, never mind.
    Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel


    MIDDLETON 2, CEDARBURG 1
    Brett Skibba scores the game winner and looks for a hug.
    Cedarburg's Brandon Thelen (8) isn't accommodating.
    John Hart/Madison.com
    This one wasn't as close as the score would indicate. Cedarburg played tough and never backed down, but the Cardinals controlled the game for 48 of the 51 minutes to advance to the semifinals. Middleton has its first victory on The Big Ice, and TJ Hansen is buying the first round down at Jingle's. Want some video (of the game, not TJ's drinking)? Here you go. Why? Because Madison.com kicks ass, that's why.

    EAU CLAIRE MEMORIAL 6, REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS 0
    Yes, Saxton Soley is pleased with his Player of the Year Honor. But rumor has
    it he has his eye on the Dusty Hackbart Coolest Player Name Award. Does he
    stand a chance? Stay tuned.
    Andi Stempniak/EC Ledger-Telegram
    Ugh, this one was as ugly as the Captain Morgan statue placed, utterly without irony, is the middle of a playground outside a putt-putt golf course in Wisconsin Dells. ECM outshot the Cheevers 54-11 in this snoozer of a contest. Because this office refuses to pay the subscription ransom being demanded by the numb-skulled editorial staff at the Eau Claire Ledger-Telegram, we will respectfully link to the game report submitted by the lovable fellows at Wisconsin Prep Hockey. Keep living the dream, boys! Wish I was there.

    WAUSAU WEST 5, NEW RICHMOND 0
    Xai Kha/Wausau Daily Herald
    Another snoozer to finish off a long day of hockey. I was so bored listening to poor MJ Hammett and company trying to find something interesting to say about this one-sided affair that I dozed off at the wheel and almost caused another accident on the Golden Gate Bridge during my commute home. Again. The bracket makers got this one right and another #1 seed advances to the final. There will be no snoozing in today's game, or my name is not Honey Badger.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    BIG ICE BREAKDOWN #4: New Richmond vs. Wausau West

    TOWN
    I'm going to be honest here. I have never set foot in New Richmond, population 6,310. But the place looks pleasant enough. The only other thing I know about New Richmond is that in 1899, the entire town was destroyed by a F5 tornado, killing hundreds of people.

    Downtown New Richmond
    Wausau, on the other hand, was one of my stops during the grand tour last year. But given that Team USA was playing in the Olympics that night, I didn't leave my hotel room except to get a second Herb Brooks tattoo on my other ass cheek. (Your Commissioner was drinking well but not wisely that evening.)

    Downtown Wausau as seen from Rib Mountain.
    (The term "mountain" is applied rather loosely here.)
    I'm not comfortable making a call here.

    ADVANTAGE: N/A

    NOTABLE CITIZENS
    New Richmond is a huge underdog numbers-wise, but the plucky town represents itself well in this all-important category. Former Wisconsin governor Warren P. Knowles once practiced law in New Richmond.

    Warren P. Knowles campaigns for more consistent branding on the
    New Richmond Tiger uniform design. (He lost.)
    New Richmond is also the current home of Scott Lynch, author of fantasy novel The Lies of Locke Lamora. It's also the hometown of Robert Edward Hayhurst, who won the Silver Star during the Tet offensive. Desire a dose of what makes a real hero? Check out Mr. Hayhurst's award citation here. You, sir, are a stud, and I know one when I see one.

    Meanwhile, Wausau West gives us Google VP Marissa Mayer, the NASCAR reaching duo of Scott and Chris Wimmer, and Survivor: Vauatu contestant Leann Slaby. I was feeling all patriotic and was ready to go with New Richmond here, but then I saw this publicity photo of Ms. Slaby:


    (I have many weaknesses, two of them being breasts.)

    ADVANTAGE: WAUSAU WEST (with apologies to Mr. Hayhurst)

    MASCOT
    It's the Tigers versus the Warriors. Yawn. This isn't Kansas, Dorothy (because if it was, we'd have something cool like the Cornjerkers vs. the Wooden Shoes).

    ADVANTAGE: DRAW

    CONFERENCE NAME
    New Richmond plays in the Middle Border conference. Wausau West comes to us from the Wisconsin Valley. Again, when we apply the Lord of the Rings rule, a winner clearly emerges.


    ADVANTAGE: NEW RICHMOND

    COOL PLAYER NAMES
    It kills me to say this, but for the first time in the history of the WSHSHP, I can find not one cool name among the two squads. A sad, sad day for this storied competition.


    ADVANTAGE: DRAW

    UNIFORM DESIGN
    You all know how I feel about inconsistent uniform design. Eau Claire Memorial started this nonsense with their mismatched home and away jerseys. And apparently the trend is catchier than Greg Buns Mills' favorite song of all time. Wausau West has two completely disparate jersey designs, neither one great.

    Here's the white jersey:


    Here's the dark jersey:


    New Richmond is an enigma. Their team uniform suggests one fairly blah design:

    Bonus points for ceramic white tiger in background. Awesome!
    But then I catch this one:


    WTF? Is this their "white jersey"? I guess we'll find out tonight. I am sorely tempted to not name a winner here, but there are the not so small matters of that solid orange jersey being (1) pretty neat and (2) reminding me of a team very dear to my clogged heart.

    ADVANTAGE: NEW RICHMOND

    TOURNEY PEDIGREE
    Both teams have been here before. New Richmond has made the Final 8 three times, racking up a respectable 2-3 record in the process, including a championship game loss in 2003. This sure ain't Wausau Wet's first trip to the rodeo, either. This is trip number eleven for the Warriors. They've gone 7-11 along the way. Both teams are still looking for their first title, though, and the Warriors, still stinging from their loss to USM last year in the championship tilt, are so close they can taste it. Several WSHSHP participants apparently agree.

    ADVANTAGE: WAUSAU WEST

    PREDICTION
    This might be the best game of Quarterfinal Thursday, and that is saying something, given our double overtime opening act. But I'm giving it to Wauau West, if only because, in the worlds of hockey legend Bill Clement, they have "paid the price."

    WAUSAU WEST 4, NEW RICHMOND 2

    BIG ICE BREAKDOWN #3: Eau Claire Memorial vs. Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells

    TOWNS



    Mitchell Thompson, a character in the 2006 documentary, Too Many Lumberjacks, Surrounded by Cheese specifically points out Eau Claire as a "horrible place to live, a truly run down pit of society's underachievers." I beg to differ. I am no stranger to the pit of society's underachievers. (In fact, I am currently serving my second term as Sergeant of Arms for this prestigious though secret society.) I have always found the town to be a vibrant, friendly place to pass a pint or two. It's not Wisconsin's greatest town, but she will sure do in a pinch. And thanks to its close proximity to the Minnesota border, it's a place where a closet Vikings fan can let his freak flag fly without enduring the incoherent mumblings of your typical Packer fan.

    Wisconsin Dell's best-selling postcard.
    Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells presents an interesting dilemma. How to score a team with two downtowns? I mean, you have the historic gaudy tackiness of Wisconsin Dells, with its highest water tubes per capita ratio in all of North America, nestled up against sleepy blandness of gentle Reedsburg, with its Mayberry-esque downtown.

    Downtown Reedsburg, WI
    I mean, I have spent a weekend at Wilderness Resort, people, and the wretched horror that is the human condition in its most cheese-fed form is still seared upon these eyeballs. Imagine hundreds of Commissioners, all with their shirts off, all in one place. On second thought, nix that image. No one wins with that one.

    ADVANTAGE: EAU CLAIRE


    NOTABLE CITIZENS
    This one is a back-and-forth affair. For every Bon Iver Eau Claire throws at you, R/WD responds with a comic artist like Claire Briggs. For every Nascar driver Paul Menard, the underdogs can roll out a Frank Kreyer. Then, just when a cocky Eau Claire thinks it can tip the scales with legendary character actor Stanley Blystone, Reedsburg digs deep for Agnes Moorehead of Bewitched fame. Game, set, and match, Chiefs.
    R/WD, if you made this your uniform logo, I will never leave you.
    ADVANTAGE: REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS


    MASCOTS
    Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells answer to the Chiefs, while anyone who has followed the WSHSHP knows the Eau Claire skaters proudly call themselves Old Abes. While I admire the upstarts' refusal to bow to the PC naming police, I have to go with ECM here. Come on, it's the Old Abes, for cripe's sake.

    ADVANTAGE: EAU CLAIRE MEMORIAL

    CONFERENCE NAME
    ...and Cortland Maxfield
    as Inspector Lestrade.
    R/WD hails from Badger North conference while ECM calls the Big Rivers conference home. No contest.

    ADVANTAGE: EAU CLAIRE MEMORIAL


    COOL PLAYER NAMES
    Yes, the Old Abes boasts of Player of the Year Saxton Soley and Killy Kitzman but check out this lineup for the Cheevers: Ashton Mace, Alex Yacko, Rathorn Schultz (Rathorn!), Caleb Fedewa, and Cortland Maxfield. Sounds like the cast from a Sherlock Holmes mystery. And I love Sherlock Holmes.


    ADVANTAGE: REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS


    UNIFORM DESIGN


    Not much to sing about on either side, but Purple always reigns over Columbia Blue in the age-old color scheme discussion. ECM throws a different logo for home and away, a strategy I have never advocated. You need more consistent branding than that, Old Abes. Call me.


    Still, the R/WD jersey is just plain boring. And life is too short for boring.


    ADVANTAGE: EAU CLAIRE MEMORIAL

    TOURNEY PEDIGREE
    This is the Old Abes' 11th trip to state. Eleven! And they've won it, too. This is the Cheevers' (Chiefs + Beavers) first trip to the Big Ice.

    ADVANTAGE: EAU CLAIRE MEMORIAL

    PREDICTION
    The game will be even more lopsided out on the ice. The Cheevers need to pay the price for a couple years before they can dream of success on ECM's level.

    EAU CLAIRE MEMORIAL 7, REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS 1

    BIG ICE BREAKDOWN #2: Middleton vs. Cedarburg

    TOWN


    Downtown Cedarburg, situated 20 miles north of Milwaukee, has been described as "gorgeous" and "quaint." (Oddly, so have I.) With oodles of historic landmarks, shops, and art studios, this tony little burg is a big hit with the ladies, especially wives looking for payback after enduring a husband's three solid weeks of prep hockey obsession. (No worries, Shauna, I have already booked the romantic Ida Kuether room at The Washington House Inn.)


    Middleton is no slough to accolades, either. Voted the Best Place to Live in America in 2007, the Good Neighbor City remains in the Top 5 in the last rating. Better yet, Middleton is home to the National Mustard Museum. Its motto? Learn. Taste. Shop. Laugh! Indeed.

    ADVANTAGE: MIDDLETON


    NOTABLE CITIZENS
    Geske's verdict?
    Cedarburg's unis rock!
    Middleton is home to Badger great Al Toon, future president of these United States Russ Feingold and conductor and music director Eco de Waart.

    Cedarburg's claims to fame include country singer Josh Thompson, Navy admiral Ralph E. Suggs, and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine P. Geske.

    ADVANTAGE: MIDDLETON

    MASCOT
    Cardinals might just be the most tired mascot out there right now. Bulldogs are familiar but more lovable. Every tried hugging a Cardinal? Highly unsatisfying. And besides, it is an incredibly fickle and nasty bird. One used to attack me every time I wheeled into his territory while wearing my red bike shorts. Jealous much?

    ADVANTAGE: CEDARBURG


    CONFERENCE NAME
    Middleton hails from the Big Eight conference, Cedarburg from the North Shore. In these situations, I always go with the name that sounds like it could be a location in the next Lord of the Rings movie.

    ADVANTAGE: CEDARBURG


    COOL PLAYER NAMES
    Middleton has never been a flashy squad, and so it's no surprise that the rosters name reflect their blue collar work ethic. Sure, there's a Zane Boyd and Chase Dickert. And it's hard to root against a kid named Jake Bunz or Logan Dohmeier. But Cedarburg has the friggin' Furey Brothers, (Jake and Cody). And Freddie West. And Rhys Talbot. The cream on the cake? Olafs Jurenko.

    ADVANTAGE: CEDARBURG

    UNIFORM DESIGN
    This is a tough one. I love the way the middle strip on the Cedarburg uniform interects with both logo on front and number in back. You just don't see a dark on dark number presentation like that very often. Granted, it can be a bitch to read for refs and fans alike, but fashion forward design does not come without its sacrifices.




    But then there is the unabashed simplicity of the Middleton design. Perfectly proportioned jersey numbers. Clean lines. No cartoonish depiction of the hated Cardinal (a truly awful bird).


    Could this really be happening? Could the Commissioner really be choosing function over flash? Drum roll, please.

    ADVANTAGE: MIDDLETON

    TOURNEY PEDIGREE
    Middleton has been to the big ice twice (2003 and 2006) but have yet to taste the sweet nectar of victory. This is Cedarburg's first trip ever.

    ADVANTAGE: MIDDLETON

    PREDICTION
    I'm still rattled by my vote for Middleton's uniform design. Cedarburg has to be rattled, too.

    MIDDLETON 4, CEDARBURG 1

    BIG ICE BREAKDOWN #1: Green Bay Notre Dame vs. Milwaukee Marquette

    NOTABLE CITIZENS
    Note to Hilltoppers: Let the other teams shave their
    heads. If you guys all double-pierced your chins like
    David Draimen, you wouldn't lose another game.
    An embarrassment of riches on both sides of the ledger. Green Bay can proudly boast of Monk actor Tony Shalhoub once calling the city home. The city by the bay is also home to Alfred Lawson, inventor of the airliner. And don't forget everyone's favorite footlballer, Horst Stemke, who was a member of the legendary 1972 U.S. Olympic soccer team. (That one's for you, Oliver.)

    Milwaukee keeps pumping out the celebrities. Of course, everyone knows Slovenian-style polka legend Louis Bashell was born in raised in M-Town. But did you also know that Brian "Kato" Kalien spent his formative years there as well? And, yes, the rumors are true: The Disturbed lead singer David Draimen hails from the Cream City, too.


    ADVANTAGE: MARQUETTE



    MASCOT 
    We have a Triton versus a Hilltopper. In a stunning upset, I am going to go with the Hilltoppers here, out of deference to my late father, who played for the college version of the Marquette Hilltopper football squad in 1953.

    ADVANTAGE: MARQUETTE



    TOURNEY PEDIGREE
    Milwaukee Marquette has been to the Big Ice twice, but not since 1999. And they haven't one a game on its slushy but hallowed surface. Meanwhile, NDA made its first trip only last year, but they won a game.

    ADVANTAGE: NDA

    CONFERENCE NAME
    NDA hails from the Badgerland North, while Marquette proudly calls itself an Independent. I like my league affiliations like I like my cinema, so we'll go with MU on this one.

    ADVANTAGE: MARQUETTE

    Miko Filo knows he sports 
    a cool name.
    COOL PLAYER NAMES
    This one is no contest. NDA features players named Anton Brix, Isaiah Hicks, and Miko Filon. They even have some cute names like John Cluckey. The best the Hilltoppers can respond with is Seamus Caragher. The rest of their roster is as bland as a side of overcooked vegetables.

    ADVANTAGE: NDA

    UNIFORM DESIGN
    Huge kudos to the Hilltoppers for bringing the horns design to the helmet, but any advantage is destroyed by asymmetrical waist striping that's as dated as my shoe collection. Yuck.


    NDA's unis are no show-stealer, but they're an improvement over last year. And pretty no-nonsense, just like the players that proudly wear them.


    EX-GIRLFRIEND FACTOR
    The Commissioner enjoyed long relationships with women from both towns. He has no complaints here. He wishes he could say the same for the women.

    ADVANTAGE: DRAW


    PREDICTION
    N/A. The game is already in overtime. God Bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!

    Will wonders never cease?

    Had you told me I would live to see the day where a pasty, slightly hungover man could get in his car in Northern California and hear a high school hockey game being broadcast over his smartphone from Wisconsin, I would have called you a fool.

    But the dream has become a reality, thanks to our good friends at Wisconsin Prep Hockey. Unlike this blog, the WiPH continues to find ways to raise the bar of excellence every year. And I raise my King Kan of Miller High Life to all of them. Well-done, Trasher, Bergler and the rest. Continue to make us proud.

    Coming Up: Big Ice Breakdowns from the Commissioner.

    My Favorite Day of the Year


    Four games on The Big Ice today, each one brought to you by the crack broadcast team at Wisconsin Prep Hockey. You can find the broadcast link here. (WiPH is doing a great job this year covering the tourney. Kudos to Trasher and the boys. Thankfully, Trasher is a far superior businessman than he is a predictor of high school hockey.)

    First puck drops in less than an hour! Notre Dame Academy vs. Milwaukee Marquette. By the time you West Coasters are sitting down for your lunch burrito, we'll know if Erik Moe is for real or just another bitter disappointment. Can you feel the excitement? I can.

    God bless all of you, and God bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    More Viewer Mail: Prepare to Get Fired Up All Over Again

    Former WSHSHP participant and current media gad fly Chris Batty sends us today's installment of inspiration. This kid is awesome. Even better, given his accent, I suspect he might be a Vikings fan. (Luke, prepare to give up your room.)



    Still, nothing is quite like the actual scene from the movie:



    Of course, this is only Herb's second best speech. He saved the best one for the gold medal game against Finland which, sadly, was left out of the movie:
    Most people forget that beating the Soviets did not earn the team a gold medal; they still had to beat Finland in the finals. Brooks was naturally worried that the team would suffer a letdown, figuring they had done what needed to be done. So his speech during the second intermission of the Finland game (with the USA down 2-1) was simple, direct, and on target:
    “If you lose this game you will take it with you to your f***ing graves." As he started to leave the locker room, he stopped, turned around and added, "Your f***ing graves.”
    On a side note, I tried this exact same speech before Griffin's Pop Warner playoff game against Emeryville, to much lesser effect.

    WSHSHP participant contender Griff Rudy prepares to 
    take another humiliating loss to his f***ing grave.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    The Commissioner Officially Has a New Nickname

    "The Honey Badger does all the work while the other animals just pick up the scraps."

    Sound like anyone you know?